Mi Wi-Fi

Digital inclusion in London

Date published: 
22 August 2018

Digital inclusion is more than just getting people online, it is about transforming lives, particularly for those groups most excluded. The Mayor confirmed his commitment to reducing digital exclusion in both manifesto commitments and by highlighting digital inclusion’s relevance in A City for All Londoners.

Most recently he has launched Smarter London Together – his roadmap to make London ‘the smartest city in the world’. In it London’s first ever Chief Digital Officer outlines the Mayor’s commitment ‘to develop new approaches to digital inclusion to support citizens who need to go online to access public services’.

Mi Wifi Pilot (April 2017 – March 2018)

One such new approach we have been testing is a pilot project, Mi Wifi. This pilot tested how effective lending wifi-enabled devices through libraries and community centres was at reducing digital exclusion among specific groups of Londoners (older Londoners, disadvantaged Londoners and disabled Londoners), as digital exclusion can often compound economic disadvantage and social isolation in these groups.

It also tested if the provision of basic digital skills training and knowledge of local support, alongside internet access, encourages sustainable and beneficial online activity. 

A priority of the pilot was also to explore the upskilling of community groups so that they could better serve their communities with greater efficiency and value for money and so 20 iPads were loaned to community partners to test this approach.

The pilot ran in the London borough of Lewisham, a borough with high digital exclusion rates.

Based on self-evaluation data:

  • 239 people from the various targeted cohorts were reached, over 6 months
  • they were mostly older residents and they all (100%) said they benefited from the programme and would recommend it to friends and family
  • over 46% said they would consider buying their own devices, which is the behaviour change this pilot was aiming to instigate
  • while 77% said they found the training they had received useful, almost 30% felt they needed more training
  • cost and access to technology are still barriers for people as much as a lack of skills and knowledge about the benefits of the internet
  • community groups confirmed that using tablets with internet access allowed them to run projects and activities that would have been difficult to deliver without access to the free tablet lending scheme
  • libraries also seem to be comfortable and accessible places of learning for this cohort, despite many returning to the library to access support there

For more information email: [email protected]

What are Basic Digital Skills?

  • Managing information:  Use a search engine to look for information online; find a website previously visited and download / save a photo found online
  • Communicating:  Send a personal message via email or online messaging service; make comments and share information online
  • Transacting: Buy items or services from a website; buy and install apps on a device
  • Creating: Complete online applications forms which include personal details; create something new from existing online images, music or video
  • Problem Solving: Verify sources of information found online; Solve a problem with a device/ digital service using online help

Why are people digitally excluded?

The Office of National Statistics suggests that there is no single reason for people being digitally excluded but the main reasons tend to include:

  • a lack of interest in the internet and digital (59%)
  • a belief they lack the skills to go online (21%)
  • the cost of equipment (9%)

But it isn't just individuals who are offline and not benefiting from digital access; 23% of small businesses and 58% of charities/community groups lack basic digital skills which will help them thrive.

How is mobile Wifi helping to reduce digital exclusion?

Mobile Wifi is increasingly considered the best channel through which to reduce digital exclusion. A recent evaluation of a Vodafone Mobile Devices project by the Good Things Foundation found:

  • 88% of the people who took part in the project improved their digital skills during the project through their use of mobile technology, and their motivations for and use of the internet also changed dramatically.
  • 78% of people who were loaned a tablet or smartphone said they found the interface more intuitive and easier to remember than that of a laptop or desktop, leading to changes in online behaviour and more regular use.
  • 55% of those who were loaned a tablet or smartphone said they learned independently, as well as using their devices out and about at a range of venues including community and day centres, social clubs, and friends’ and family members’ homes.
  • 70% of people felt that mobile had cost advantages for them over fixed broadband.
  • For people experiencing severe social exclusion and disadvantage mobile internet was shown to enable people to better self-manage their health, leading to greater independence and wellbeing.

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